On a party line vote, with Republicans in the majority overriding Democrats and calling for deep cuts in government budgets, it might sound like Washington, D.C., news these days.
But in Baton Rouge, with a budget in chaos and anti-tax fervor high, we are farther along with party gridlock than anybody is willing to admit.
The consequence: a new appropriations bill that literally robs from the poor to aid the better-off, as if everybody in Louisiana is an upper-middle-class householder with two kids in college on TOPS tuition waivers.
To fund the TOPS awards, which are not academically demanding enough to be called "scholarships," the budget demands cuts of $236 million from the Department of Health. Differing constituencies in the House panel put in amendments that limit where the department can cut that money. It is more than reasonable to expect that it's not just going to be in bureaucratic payrolls, but actual services to poorer families.
Louisiana is likely to lose federal funding if state matching dollars for Medicaid or other programs come up short.
State leaders painted a bleak picture Tuesday of the decisions agencies would be forced to face under a budget plan that the House will take u…
Robin Hood in reverse, with a budget that doubles down on the cuts to state services made during the eight years of former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Will these cuts stand? The 17-5 vote on the budget bill was in Appropriations, where the committee was stacked with ideological warriors, more anti-government than the House in general.
That is only an opening gun, one that will be up for debate in the full House and then go to the Senate, where traditionally the governor has more sway. The 39 senators represent larger districts than the 105 House members, meaning that they are aware of the political dangers of acting in the interests of only their better-off neighborhoods.
Still, a 17-5 vote purely on party lines — even with a few relative moderates among Republicans on the Appropriations panel — is a victory for the ultraconservatives and bodes very poorly for Gov. John Bel Edwards right now. The increasing likelihood is that cuts will be the order of the day, at least in the House; out of focus are reforms to clean up a broken tax system and to generate some cash to make up for the Bobby Jindal years' neglect of universities, poor children and the numerous unfortunates who need Medicaid help to live anything like respectable lives.
As on Capitol Hill, legislators here begin days with prayer. Then they seem to forget the halt, lame and blind, in the words of the Good Book, when it comes time to craft a budget with inherently limited funds.
Is this going to work out well for Republicans? Well, the national debate has been going poorly, with the prospects of millions losing health insurance driving some GOP members of the U.S. House into revolt against an ideological leadership. Perhaps the same thing might happen at the state level, but who knows?
What is undeniable is a drift toward a two-party system in the Legislature is now well-advanced.
Curt Eysink: The death at 53 of the former journalist and head of the Louisiana Workforce Commission under Gov. Bobby Jindal is a real loss and is widely mourned. He was continuing his work on labor issues at the Community and Technical College System before his untimely death.
Email Lanny Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A state House panel, in a party-line vote, has advanced a budget plan for the coming year th…